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Last Friday I was asked to do several jiyu waza's. This usually, IME, means I've screwed up the first so Sensei wants me to try to improve. Oh well.
Then, after class Sensei approaches me outside in the parking lot - an unusual move for him, though not unheard of. He asks me if I've been doing anything special in my life, particularly as it pertains to Aikido. He says he's noticed considerable improvement in my Aikido. A really huge difference.
Right, so, back when I got my nidan, he told me he expected me to be ready for my sandan in about half the time it normally takes (1.5 years as opposed to 3). It's been almost two years.
Then, one of his top students who knows him better than anyone else on the planet had told me several weeks ago that he thinks Sensei is waiting for me to ask for it. Like I'm basically ready and that I'm the one who needs to realize this.
I'm not one to argue with my instructor's judgement (mostly), but I certainly don't feel ready. I feel, well, like I've got a long way to go. In some ways, Sandan is a bigger deal than shodan ever could be. Aside from it just being a higher rank, there's the expectation that a sandan should pretty much have mastery of the art. A sandan is at the point where any learning is up to the student. No teacher required anymore.
So, there was this guy on a Yahoo! Aikido group who was doing a a roll-a-thon to benefit a sick friend of his. I thought this was a great idea. Then it occured to me that one of the biggest events in Rio Vista every year is the Relay for Life, a benefit for the American Cancer Society. Hard on the heals of that I remembered thinking that I needed to do some kind of charity event at the dojo. It's not important why, this is just something I really believe in.
So, we had a roll-a-thon this weekend. My plan is to have one every year. Or even twice a year. It was fairly successful, I thought.
Seven kids showed up to roll.
My plan was to have them roll for a total of 30 minutes each in ten minute shifts. That way they'd have ten minutes to catch their breath and get over any dizziness. I estimated that each one would be able to do between 20-50 rolls over that thirty minutes.
They averaged 175 rolls in the first ten minutes. Yes, they slowed down for the second ten minutes and not one of them went for the third ten minutes. One white belt who could only manage one session and has never done much at all physical before Aikido still managed a total of 98 rolls in ten minutes.
Two of these kids exceeded 400 rolls with one at 440, the other (my son!) at 428. These two had pledges of $.50 per roll from various people. It's a dime next time, guaranteed.
Am I proud of these kids? Absolutely! But I was in shock for most of the rest of Saturda
Every year we do a demonstration at the Bass Festival (http://www.bassfestival.com) in Rio Vista. This year was no exception. We did our demonstration in front of the music stage in between bands, packed up our mats and went back to the dojo...
...where we then had a shodan presentation for one of my students. He's leaving for a trip to Japan next week, so it's a good time for him to be ready. And he was. It's always tempting to compare presentations, especially with them being so close together (my first student to get her black belt gave her presentation this summer), but it would be apples and oranges. The best I can say is both were excellent and both reflected the personality of the person.
But a shodan presentation during the Bass Festival attracted some attention. We got people in to watch. It didn't hurt that Erick's technical presentations and his randori were impressive to watch. Of course I'll be reviewing the video tape looking for mistakes to correct (it's my job, right? ), but he did a great job.
Then this Saturday we had a children's promotion. Once again, it was really great. To really understand my pleasure in this you need to know that as late as last Monday there were five kids whose promotion was in question. I do all the testing before the day of the promotion. Monday was their last chance to test in time for the promotion. Apparently my pointing this out to them the previous Thursday really focuse...More
Since starting a dojo, I've had several people come in with claims of prior training who, when they actually got on the mat, were just looking to start a fight. Their training was clearly all about competition and, well, fighting.
It always follows the same scenario:
"I came to try out Aikido. I have some training in foo bar do which is a little harder, but I want to see what this art is about.
They come out on the mat with us and we start to work on kata practice.
I demonstrate a technique from an attack.
This person pairs off with one of my students (always a senior one, these days, I've learned from repeated occurances of this scenario) and they begin to "practice".
I come over and break up the ensuing conflict. Sometimes, if I think it's worth it, I try working with the "new student" for a bit, but not often. Most often this person just wants to pick a fight.
They get frustrated because they don't perceive what we're doing as "real". What this really means is that it isn't UFC level competition.
I generally try to direct them to a local BJJ dojo I know about where these kinds of attitudes get adjusted very quickly. I'd be more inclined to spend the time with them if I could do so without alienating my other students.
These people never actually sign up, though, and I feel vaguely like they were just trying to waste my time. Worse, they were wasting my students' time.
My lease is done on my old space as of Friday. Tomorrow will be the last class I hold there. No classes over the weekend or on Monday and then...
...we're supposed to be having classes in the new space. If the city allows it. Apparently they need to be sure we're an appropriate business for the space. It's possible that they would prefer we turned it into a little antique boutique to replace the one that burned down two doors away from us*.
Probably it will be okay, but a fire inspection is definitely in order.
Two steps forward, that would be one step of progress, right?
The fire department did their inspection this morning and we did okay. There are some issues with the electrical work, but the electrician is already working on those, so it should be corrected by tomorrow.
One step back, two steps forward
The electrician should have been done by now. Why isn't he?
...his biggest customer (always follow the money...) has been keeping him really busy. This customer has also been snarling traffic on the Rio Vista Bridge by making sure it's up at least 50% of the time lately. Okay, maybe not 50%, but often, okay.
...he hired some young adults to do some of the grunt work for him. They took his money, but no work got done. The rest of the story is not fit for public consumption. The upshot is that he's got someone else in there doing the work now and it'll be done this w
I signed the paperwork and got the keys this morning.
Handed over a fat check.
Going from sharing a space with a dance studio to 3000 sq feet of dedicated space. The mat wil be at 1000 sq feet. We'll have proper dressing rooms. I'll have an office. There will be a lobby. There are windows in the front. There will be no mirrors on the mat. I can put up signs.
But it's going to be expensive.
Still, I think my business will grow now. Visibility matters. Presence matters. My ongoing lack of visibility has created the impression that I have no presence.
This is the day when I can officially call myself a Teacher of Aikido.
That's when the first of my students to earn her shodan gives her shodan presentation.
The way things are done in our school, it's pretty much a done deal. We would not have set the date if I didn't plan on awarding the rank. Sure, she has a couple of things to work on between now and then - not least of which is her presentation - but I have no doubt she'll do it.
I think this may be a bigger deal than my own shodan was. At least to me.
It made me consider the good and bad of the last three years of teaching:
Good: I have some very dedicated and talented students.
Bad: I was a pretty green teacher when I fell into this dojocho role.
Good: I've learned a lot and I believe I'm a much better dojocho - and teacher - than I was back then.
Bad: In the process of learning I chased away a lot of good students.
Good: I'm solidly established in the community.
Bad: I need to do a better job of outreach.
But, mostly, I'm happy that my student has earned her shodan. And I have another one due in about three months. Will he make it? I believe so, but he's not done yet. Plus a junior shodan (different from adult shodan, but still an accomplishment) within six months.
I had an interesting realization this morning. It came as a result of something I was doing last night in my regular classes. I have some students who've reached a point in their training where I can no longer put off teaching them high (break) falls. So, I was taking them through the steps I went through to learn them:
Lay on the mat slapping right and left alternating. The idea is to slap hard and learn to hit the mat as hard as you can without it being painful. This isn't about toughening up your arm, it's about hitting the right way with your arm actually flat. It sounds easy, but some people really struggle at this point.
Throw yourself from side to side with your feet and slap as you land. This is hard work and I discovered it's nearly as good as situps for making the muscles in your stomach tired.
Forward roll with a slap. Instead of finishing the roll and coming up, slap the mat and stop.
Backward roll with a slap. Roll back and slap.
Then comes the real challenge. I hadn't done it in years, I realized, and I wasn't sure I still could. But, I tried. I threw myself forward into...
...a pretty respectable high fall. It didn't hurt nearly as much as I feared. My landing was a bit rusty, but mostly together. I did it a few more times to demonstrate the point even though I knew none of my students were ready for that step. They just
needed to see where these exercises were going. That's really why I kept doing it.
Coming from another teacher I'd take this as a criticism. Some teachers would mean this as "you are unteachable". But, from this teacher I know it means that anything I learn from here on out is up to me. My personal study is more important than what I am taught.
Sounds great, doesn't it? Wow, I've Arrived!! I'm so cool I don't even need a teacher to learn!!
So, how come this feels like a huge letdown?
Maybe it's because this doesn't really mean I have nothing to learn from anyone, it's just that going to class and going through the motions isn't going to be enough anymore. Or that it means that the really hard work has now begun. Or that I don't 100% agree with his assesment.
There are so many holes in my training. There is no doubt that I've accomplished a lot in the last five years that I've been steadily training. It even appears that I accomplished more in the intervening years when I'd stopped training than I would have expected. Apparently, I can learn on my own pretty well.
But I learn what I know how to learn.
There has to be some kind of foundation, something for me to practice and refine.
Most of the "holes" in my training are holes because there is no foundation. So I have to find ways to build that foundation. One of these holes, weapons training, turns out to be relatively easy to work on. Others are harder.
Meanwhile, I need to find ways to keep my regular training going and improve on the stuff I do know. All this while k